As a young kid, ask anyone who knew me it was evident that I wanted to “Be Like Mike”. I would daydream all day of me playing in the National Basketball Association. Never in a million years would I have thought I would actually be playing against my childhood idol, Michael Jordan! In fact, take away MJ’s six NBA championships and Final’s MVP’s, 14 All-Star Appearances, and 10 scoring titles we are basically on the same level (hey this is my story and I’ll tell it the way I want). Nonetheless, in being affiliated with the NBA for almost two decades, I‘m often asked to give advice to the next generation on how they too can accomplish such a feat. Even though the typical answers of hard work and dedication would be sufficient enough in achieving such a milestone, I feel compelled to share three things that you must do in order to reach your potential.
1.) You Must Go Into The DEEP
One of the hindrances that prevent people from achieving greatness is that they set too small of a goal. In order to achieve something great you must first enlarge your vision. What this requires of you is stepping out of your comfort zone. Take into account the instructions in Luke 5:4 that Jesus gives the fishermen who had failed to make a single catch all day, “Put into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Notice that he didn’t say stay in the shallow water where it’s nice and comfortable but rather he said cast into the deep water where there is much turbulence and uncertainty. Even though it went against all logic and reason, the fishermen obeyed Jesus’ command and in return reaped a great reward (Luke 5: 5-7). At the age of 18, I too ventured out into the deep and decided to follow my own dream of playing major D-I college basketball by attending Seton Hall University, located in South Orange, New Jersey. I can’t begin to describe to you the difficulty I experienced in transitioning from the prairie planes of Kansas to the metropolitan life of the east coast. Even though I was young and naïve, I am so glad I took that leap of faith. Today, God may be telling you to take a leap of faith even though it may go against all logic and reason. When you are out in the deep and all you see is water it’s tempting to start questioning whether you made the right decision or not. I can’t begin to tell you how many times we talk ourselves out of God’s best for us because we can’t see the shore. Instead of paddling back to the safety of the shore this is the time when we must build ourselves up in the Lord (Jude 1:20). It’s ironic that we can be so quick to speak encouraging words to others and at the same time be our own worse critics. Words are powerful. You can speak life into your situation or speak death (Proverbs 18:21). Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) and be reassured that God did not give you a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1-7). Take control of your thoughts and stop letting fear keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you. So the next time that the waves start to rise just know that you are in a good place because that is where you find the big fish!
2.) You Must Shake Off The Haters
How do you know when you have ventured far enough into the deep? That’s simple; people will try and talk you out of it. The bible says King David’s own brother burned with anger and chastised him for having the audacity to think he could defeat a mighty warrior such as Goliath (1 Samuel 17: 28). Whenever you set out to achieve something great you can best believe you will be met with resistance. Quite frankly, when I signed with Seton Hall, many people thought I was nuts! I can still hear the critics now, “No way can this little country boy ever make it in the big city!” In fact, according to one renowned NBA and college scout, I would sit the bench at Seton Hall for four years and then afterwards return to Wichita to pump gas at a local gas station! Fortunately for us, just like with King David, God doesn’t look at our outer appearances. He doesn’t care if we are old or young, large or small, from the city or the suburbs. The only thing he requires of us is just to have faith, even if it is the size of a mustard seed (Luke 17:6). So the next time you are met with resistance do as King David did and simply turn away (1 Samuel 17:30). Don’t waist your time and energy trying to convert people who have a shallow water mindset (Matthew 7:6). Venture into the deep where the big fish are waiting for you!.
3.) You Must Understand That Failure Is Not fatal.
Going undrafted in 1996 was one of the lowest points of my life. A lot of times when you are pursuing your goal you can do everything right and still fail. Just remember that failure is not fatal. It is only a stepping-stone to propel you forward closer to your destiny. What we think is meant for harm is actually meant for our good (Genesis 50:20). When I failed to get drafted into the NBA I thought God had forsaken me. But it is in the wilderness where God begins to transform and equip us to take over the promise land (Deuteronomy 31). For three years in the minor leagues the head coach worked with me for an hour before practice and an hour after practice. It was during this time I became physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger. If I would have gotten drafted immediately following college I would not have developed the necessary skills that would go on to sustain me throughout a nine-year playing career in the NBA. Thank God his ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). In light of this, you yourself may be lost in the wilderness without a compass to guide you. When we enter these times of uncertainty the Bible tells us that if any man lacks wisdom we should simply ask God, who gives it to us freely (James 1:5). Asking for help takes a certain level of humility. Just remember that God resist the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The point that I’m making is that no one gets to where they are without the assistance of others. Even Jesus himself had help in carrying his cross to Calvary (Matthew 27:32). When I think of the many others who have helped carry my cross I get overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Be it former coaches, former teaches, family members and friends, they have all contributed greatly to my success. No discipline seems pleasant at the time (Matthew 12:11) but blessed is the man that endures to the end (James 1:12).
Lastly, when it comes to reaching your goals, let me end with this bit of advice. The race is not given to the swift nor the strong but he who endures until the end (Ecclesiastes 9:11). In other words, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish. So whenever you begin to question if you can achieve the impossible let me be the first to tell you, YES YOU CAN!
P.S. I’m dedicating this blog to my niece. Uncle A love’s you. You have greatness inside you. Do as David did and shake them haters off and keep moving forward. God has something uniquely and undeniably great in store for you!